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       Black Jack, p.33

           Max Brand


  There was no exuberant joy to meet this suggestion. McGuire had, as amatter of fact, made his territory practically crime-proof for so longthat men had lost interest in planning adventures within the sphere ofhis authority. It seemed to the four men of Pollard's gang a peculiarfolly to cast a challenge in the teeth of the formidable sheriff himself.Even Pollard was shaken and looked to Denver. But that worthy, who hadreturned from the door where he was stationed during the presence of thesheriff, remained in his place smiling down at his hands. He, for one,seemed oddly pleased.

  In the meantime Sandy was setting forth his second and particularlyinteresting news item.

  "You-all know Lewison?" he asked.

  "The sour old grouch," affirmed Phil Marvin. "Sure, we know him."

  "I know him, too," said Sandy. "I worked for the tenderfoot that heskinned out of the ranch. And then I worked for Lewison. If they'sanything good about Lewison, you'd need a spyglass to find it, and thenit wouldn't be fit to see. His wife couldn't live with him; he drove hisson off and turned him into a drunk; and he's lived his life for hiscoin."

  "Which he ain't got much to show for it," remarked Marvin. "He lives likea starved dog."

  "And that's just why he's got the coin," said Sandy. "He lives on whatwould make a dog sick and his whole life he's been saving every cent he'smade. He gives his wife one dress every three years till she died. That'show tight he is. But he's sure got the money. Told everybody his kid runoff with all his savings. That's a lie. His kid didn't have the guts orthe sense to steal even what was coming to him for the work he done forthe old miser. Matter of fact, he's got enough coin saved--all gold--tobreak the back of a mule. That's a fact! Never did no investing, butturned everything he made into gold and put it away."

  "How do you know?" This from Denver.

  "How does a buzzard smell a dead cow?" said Sandy inelegantly. "I ain'tgoing to tell you how I smell out the facts about money. Wouldn't be anyuse to you if you knew the trick. The facts is these: he sold his ranch.You know that?"

  "Sure, we know that."

  "And you know he wouldn't take nothing but gold coin paid down at thehouse?"

  "That so?"

  "It sure is! Now the point's this. He had all his gold in his own privatesafe at home."

  Denver groaned.

  "I know, Denver," nodded Sandy. "Easy pickings for you; but I didn't findall this out till the other day. Never even knew he had a safe in hishouse. Not till he has 'em bring out a truck from town and he ships thesafe and everything in it to the bank. You see, he sold out his own placeand he's going to another that he bought down the river. Well, boys,here's the dodge. That safe of his is in the bank tonight, guarded by oldLewison himself and two gunmen he's hired for the job. Tomorrow he startsout down the river with the safe on a big wagon, and he'll have half adozen guards along with him. Boys, they's going to be forty thousanddollars in that safe! And the minute she gets out of the county--becauseold McGuire will guard it to the boundary line--we can lay back in thehills and--"

  "You done enough planning, Sandy," broke in Joe Pollard. "You've smelledout the loot. Leave it to us to get it. Did you say forty thousand?"

  And on every face around the table Terry saw the same hunger and the sameyellow glint of the eyes. It would be a big haul, one of the biggest, ifnot the very biggest, Pollard had ever attempted.

  Of the talk that followed, Terry heard little, because he was payingscant attention. He saw Joe Pollard lie back in his chair with squintedeyes and run over a swift description of the country through which thetrail of the money would lead. The leader knew every inch of themountains, it seemed. His memory was better than a map; in it was jotteddown every fallen log, every boulder, it seemed. And when his mind wasfixed on the best spot for the holdup, he sketched his plan briefly.

  To this man and to that, parts were assigned in brief. There would bemore to say in the morning about the details. And every man offeredsuggestions. On only one point were they agreed. This was a sum of moneyfor which they could well afford to spill blood. For such a prize as thisthey could well risk making the countryside so hot for themselves thatthey would have to leave Pollard's house and establish headquarterselsewhere. Two shares to Pollard and one to each of his men, includingSandy, would make the total loot some four thousand dollars and more perman. And in the event that someone fell in the attempt, which was morethan probable, the share for the rest would be raised to ten thousand forPollard and five thousand for each of the rest. Terry saw cold glancespass the rounds, and more than one dwelt upon him. He was the last tojoin; if there were to be a death in this affair, he would be the leastmissed of all.

  A sharp order from Pollard terminated the conference and sent his men tobed, with Pollard setting the example. But Terry lingered behind andcalled back Denver.

  "There is one point," he said when they were alone, "that it seems to methe chief has overlooked."

  "Talk up, kid," grinned Denver Pete. "I seen you was thinking. It suredoes me good to hear you talk. What's on your mind? Where was Joe wrong?"

  "Not wrong, perhaps. But he overlooked this fact: tonight the safe isguarded by three men only; tomorrow it will be guarded by six."

  Denver stared, and then blinked.

  "You mean, try the safe right in town, inside the old bank? Son, youdon't know the gents in this town. They sleep with a gat under every headand ears that hear a pin drop in the next room--right while they'resnoring. They dream about fighting and they wake up ready to shoot."

  Terry smiled at this outburst.

  "How long has it been since there was a raid on McGuire's town?"

  "Dunno. Don't remember anybody being that foolish"

  "Then it's been so long that it'll give us a chance. It's been so longthat the three men on guard tonight will be half asleep."

  "I dunno but you're right. Why didn't you speak up in company? I'll callthe chief and--"

  "Wait," said Terry, laying a hand on the round, hard-muscled shoulder ofthe yegg. "I had a purpose in waiting. Seven men are too many to takeinto a town."


  "Two men might surprise three. But seven men are more apt to besurprised."

  "Two ag'in' three ain't such bad odds, pal. But--the first gun that pops,we'll have the whole town on our backs."

  "Then we'll have to do it without shooting. You understand, Denver?"

  Denver scratched his head. Plainly he was uneasy; plainly, also, he wasmore and more fascinated by the idea.

  "You and me to turn the trick alone?" he whispered out of the side of hismouth in a peculiar, confidentially guilty way that was his when he wasexcited. "Kid, I begin to hear the old Black Jack talk in you! I begin tohear him talk! I knew it would come!"

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